Thursday, August 28, 2008

Everyone Must Read this Paper

 
Christopher Taylor writes on Catalogue of Organisms ...
Nearly thirty years ago, a paper was published that almost every student of evolutionary science will end up reading at some point in their career. Despite being only eighteen pages long and containing no original research, many people see it as marking something of a revolution in biology.


2 comments :

  1. The popularity of this paper has consistently mystified me. In its core, it says something so incredibly banal that it boggles my mind why would anyone bother wasting time writing a paper about it: Not all traits are necessarily adaptive. Sheesh.

    On a practical level, the introduction of the terms is also entirely useless. Selection occurs on the level of an organism and any
    spandrel is under selective pressure simply by virtue of it being part of the assembly of traits. Delineation between spandrel and non-spandrel
    is entirely artificial and is determined by the incompleteness of
    knowledge. What seems like a spandrel may turn out to not be
    one; what today is a true spandrel is a separate adaptive organ tomorrow. And so on. If you can never tell if something is coloured red, the concept of "colour red" is of no use.

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  2. dk says,

    The popularity of this paper has consistently mystified me. In its core, it says something so incredibly banal that it boggles my mind why would anyone bother wasting time writing a paper about it: Not all traits are necessarily adaptive. Sheesh.

    Hmmm ... you don't get out much do you? :-)

    I'll let you in on a little secret—some people still don't get it. Just read the comments whenever I post on the perils of adaptationism. Believe it or not, there are those who think that every visible variation in a population must be subject to positive or negative selection. The only neutral alleles are those at the molecular level.

    And this is thirty years after Gould & Lewontin's paper was published.

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